Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Sikh Diwali

Most know it as the "Festival of Lights" because at least in India, every house is brightened by strings of lights and deevaas, little clay containers into which oil is poured and a wick lit.  These deevaas surround walkways, balconies, windows, and any free nooks within the home.  Children in India are free to play with firecrackers of different types.  There are special snacks galore.  Family, friends, neighbors, and neighbors' family and friends all get together to enjoy the festivities.

The Hindus celebrate the homecoming of their King, Raam, and his family after fourteen years of exile.  For the Sikhs however, the festival is about their sixth Guru.  Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji was imprisoned by the Mughal Emperor of the time because of his political fears.  Along with Guru Hargobind Ji, fifty-two other princes and minor kings had also been imprisoned.

Realizing that instead of the Guru, his true enemies were among his own advisors, the Emperor offered freedom to Guru Ji.  Guru Hargobind refused to be freed until the others were freed with him.  In an attempt to be clever, the Emperor offered that all those who could hold on to a hem of Guru Ji's cloak could be freed.  Guru Hargobind Ji ordered a cloak to be made with fifty-two tassles and freed all the prisoners in the fort.

The Sikhs rejoiced and lit the way to Amritsar, Punjab with deevaas for Guru Hargobind Ji.  Guru Hargobind Ji has since been named "Bandhi Chhorh," one who frees others from imprisonment.  Sikhs celebrate Bandhi Chhorh Divas, which has become covered under the popular umbrella of Diwali.

Bandhi Chorh Divas decorations at Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple) in Punjab, India.